You Can Grow Your Own Food!

So many of us love the idea of growing our own food but lack of space, sun, and let’s face it, time get in the way. If you’re in that crowd, don’t despair, there is an answer – edible landscaping!

Many vegetables and herbs are as beautiful as they are delicious. This makes them perfect candidates for sprucing up your landscapes as well as your dinner. A wide variety of edible plants offer splendid texture and color for most any landscape. And you can position them just about anywhere that receives six or more hours of sun a day.

Consider existing landscape beds. Chives, parsley, prostrate rosemary and smaller varieties of artemesia are excellent border plants. Basil is a beautiful and delicious accent plant. African Blue Basil grows to maturity as a tall plant with stunning purple bloom spikes that attract many species of bees. Sweet basil planted with Purple Ruffles basil offers interesting textures as well as bright green and purple color in the garden.

African Blue Basil
Sweet and Purple Basil

Herbs provide interesting textures and colors in the garden or strategically placed containers. Spend time outdoors to identify where your landscape receives at least six hours of sun. Start small by planting one or two containers in the sunniest spot in your landscape. Vegetables and herbs can be tucked into an ornamental planting bed. Just remember to consider the mature size of the vegetable to provide adequate space for it to grow. Large containers are perfect for growing many vegetables and herbs. Make certain that the container has a drainage hole. Purchase good quality potting mix to fill vegetable or herb containers. Place the container in its final location before filling with soil.

One in three households in the U.S. is growing food and children involved in growing vegetables are more willing to eat them.

Zucchini

In our southeast Texas climate, now is the perfect time to begin growing warm season vegetables. Just follow these easy steps and you’ll be well on your way:

  • Make a list of your family’s favorite vegetables and/or herbs
  • Decide which plants you want to grow
  • Purchase starts to create an instant garden
  • Buy general purpose organic fertilizer and compost
  • Identify the nearest water source (hose bib) for a garden hose or plan to hand water
  • Dig only where each plant will be planted
  • Add a small amount of fertilizer and the plant to the planting hole
  • Gently replace the soil around the roots and stem of the plant
  • Cover with an inch or so of good quality compost
  • Water thoroughly
Asian Eggplant

Ultimately, let your palate be your guide. If you plant what you love to eat you’ll be more likely to harvest and prepare the fruits of your labor. Common warm season vegetables include beans, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, and okra. Some warm season herbs are basil, dill, mint, oregano, rosemary and thyme. Local groceries, hardware stores and home supply stores have vegetable and herbs ready to add to your landscape. Set aside an hour or two and begin to grow your own food.

Growing tomatoes in a sunny container

For more information, check out these helpful gardening guides from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.

Cherry tomatoes

Try this delicious recipe using tomatoes grown in your own landscape!

Create a delightful family project by harvesting, cleaning, and preparing the chemical free vegetables and herbs you have grown. Let children make suggestions about what they would like to eat. Involve your family in meal planning and cooking. Sharing edibles from your own landscape is a very rewarding experience. List your favorite vegetables and start now!

Create a Totally Rad(ish) Fall Vegetable Garden

Opening the week’s CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) delivery is always an exciting experience. What delicious vegetables await?! Well, this round certainly didn’t disappoint. I opened the box to find something completely new – a round white root vegetable with light green shoulders and dark green stems and leaves. Of course, I had to cut into it right away and what a splendid sight was revealed: beautiful, dark pink concentric circles with a light green outer edge, like a tiny watermelon!

I cut a few slices and chomped away. The pink flesh was crisp and sweet with a mild, peppery taste; the exterior a bit spicier. It was a watermelon radish. And it was delicious! 

Watermelon radishes (raphanus sativus) are in the brassica (mustard) family and are related to Napa cabbage, bok choy, turnips, broccoli, cauliflower and kale. It is an heirloom variety of the daikon radish.  

Originating in Asia, watermelon radishes have grown in popularity and are now available in our high-end groceries year-round. You might also encounter them at a farmer’s market in late fall and winter – prime growing season in Texas. They can be grown during warmer months though higher temperatures tend to soften their texture and bitter their taste. 

When shopping for watermelon radishes, choose ones with roots, stems and leaves intact. The roots should be pink, indicating a dark pink, tasty interior. Look for crisp, lively leaves, smooth shiny skin, no blemishes on the bulb and firmness when squeezed. 

Watermelon radishes are extremely hydrating – almost 90% water – and a good source of fiber, vitamins B and C, calcium and phosphorus. And just 16 calories per 100 grams! 

But why buy these beauties when you can grow them right at home – an ideal addition to your fall and winter vegetable garden. Plant them from September to mid-November and again from February to mid-March.  

Source your seeds from online seed catalogs or high-end plant retailers. Consider that they might be labeled by one of their many alternative names: Beauty Heart, Rose Heart, Shinrimei, Misato, Asian Red Meat and Zin Li Mei radish. Shop the “specialty” daikon or Korean radish categories. 

Once planted, be sure to use your drip irrigation – maintaining a consistent soil moisture level is important. Too little moisture and your radishes will turn out pithy and hollow, while too much water can cause splitting.

For the best flavor harvest your watermelon radishes about 45 days after planting. They should be about the size of a golf ball at this point. If you can stand waiting another 20 days you’ll produce a crunchier radish with milder flavor. 

Radish bulbs should be wrapped and stored separately with leaves and stems removed. The bulbs will keep refrigerated for about two weeks. You’ll need to use the stems and leaves quickly, within 2-3 days. 

Beauty and flavor combined make cooking with watermelon radishes a delight. Although, cooking isn’t really needed since their full flavor is best achieved raw. Take this buddha bowl for example – as tasty as it is lovely.

To prepare your radishes, scrub under cold water and trim the root just before using. If crispy radishes entice you, start by soaking the bulb in ice water for 1-2 hours. Their mild, peppery taste pairs well with citrus and slightly bitter greens such as arugula. The striking color accents any dish. I especially love paring them with root vegetables such as sweet potatoes, purple potatoes and rainbow carrots. And they’re perfect for pickling.

Don’t forget about the greens. Fold them into your favorite salad for a little extra spice or sauté them just as you would spinach or collard greens.


The Woodlands Township’s online Fall Sustainable Organic Vegetable Gardening Class is a great opportunity to learn more about growing watermelon radishes and other cool season vegetables. Questions about how to time planting, prepare soil, and care for your fall garden will be answered by an expert horticulturist. This FREE class happens Saturday, August 21, 2021 from 9 a.m. to noon. Register now using the button below. We’re excited to see you in class! 

Fall Foodscaping – Texas Style

Growing food in the home landscape can be challenging.  Too much shade, not enough sun, lack of space for a backyard vegetable garden are common barriers to growing our own food.  You may have more gardening space in your home landscape than you realize.  A unique gardening strategy, “foodscaping” offers ideas for using existing space in new ways.  One of the national leaders in this movement is Brie Arthur.  Her first book, The Foodscape Revolution:  Finding a Better Way to Make Space for Food and Beauty in Your Garden will inform the content of this week’s free online class. 

Brie Arthur will present “Fall Foodscaping—Texas Style” on Saturday, October 24 from 10 a.m. to noon.  This class is packed full of information and creative ideas for using any sunny space to grow vegetables.  Brie will teach you how to beautify your landscape while growing your own food.  Whether beginner or expert, you’ll learn strategies you can employ right now to add cool weather vegetables to your home landscape.  The beauty of these vegetables will rival traditional annuals—and they are edible!  With Brie’s expert guidance, you will learn which vegetables and fruits will grow best in our southeast Texas climate. 

Don’t miss this one-time opportunity to learn from a renowned expert!  Gather your breakfast snacks and hot tea and join us online Saturday, October 24 at 10 a.m.  The class is free but registration is required. 

Questions or comments? Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Free Online Fall Organic Vegetable Gardening Class

Now is the time to prep for fall planting so you can enjoy picking squash, broccoli, tomatoes and more from your own vegetable garden. If you’re new to gardening or looking for some tips to get the best harvest this year, don’t miss out on this upcoming opportunity to have your best garden this fall. 

The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department is excited to announce their first online educational program. The Fall Organic Vegetable Gardening Class will bring top notch information right to your own home on Saturday, July 25, 2020 from 9 a.m. to noon.   

Dr. Bob Randall, noted Houston vegetable gardening expert and published gardening author, will share his lifetime of vegetable gardening expertise in this Zoom webinar. Learn about garden site selection and preparation; plant selection based upon Montgomery County’s plant hardiness zone 9a; and appropriate organic gardening techniques. Dr. Randall’s many years of expertise in gardening education, community gardening and tending his personal vegetable garden are sure to provide an exciting and informative class. 

Dr. Bob Randall shares his tips on successfully growing tomatoes in Houston. 

To register for this free class and receive your webinar link, sign up here

Questions or comments? Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov


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Grow a lot in a little space: edible container gardening

Has your desire to grow your own food been stymied by a lack of space or sun? You’re not alone – it’s a common scenario in our heavily wooded community. But don’t despair, containers might be your answer. With a bit of planning and minimal investment, you’ll amaze yourself with the bevy of edibles you can grow in just one pot, bucket, crate or barrel. And you’ll add beauty and interest to any landscape, balcony or patio. 

Where to start

Begin your plan with a list of vegetables you most enjoy. Then consider the season and planting time. The Montgomery County Master Gardeners’ Vegetable Planting Chart makes an excellent guide.  

Creating a beautiful edible container is as simple as following a recipe. When planting multiple varieties into one container, make the most of the space by including a: 

  • Thriller—a tall, showy  plant (perhaps your favorite variety of pepper) 
  • Spiller—a trailing/vining  plant (try your favorite squash—the flowers are also edible) 
  • Filler—smaller edibles to add color and texture (purple ruffle basil, bunching onions, oregano) 

Vegetables and herbs make fantastic companions. Basil and tomatoes, for example, complement each other just as well in a container as they do in a sauce. Learn more about growing herbs in Texas here.

Look for the largest possible plants to give your edible container a great start. Check with plant retailers, nurseries, and home improvement stores. Many groceries stock potted vegetables and herbs, as well. 

Gather supplies

As for containers, almost any type of material will do: terra cotta, fiberglass, wood, plastic or metal. Err on the side of a larger container to give your plants room to grow. In our hot climate, larger containers also do a better job of keeping roots moist. And make certain it has a drainage hole.

Spring for high quality potting soil. You’ll thank yourself – good soil is key to growing successful edibles. And spend a few extra dollars on quality fertilizer. Whether your gardening preference is organic or conventional, be sure to look for one labelled ‘slow release’ .

Vegetables need 6-8 hours of full sun. Walk around your yard at different times during the day to find the location that receives enough light. Once you’ve found the right space and gathered your supplies, it’s time to start planting. 

Plant and enjoy

Place your new edible container garden in the sunny location you selected and add soil. Gently transplant the plants from the nursery pots to the prepared large pot. Place the “thriller” plant in the center of the container. Add the “spiller plant(s) near the edge of the pot. Fill in with the “filler” plants. Fertilize using the label directions. Water thoroughly. Your edible garden is complete! Container gardens require early morning or late evening watering daily in the southeast Texas climate, unless rain occurs.

Enjoy these additional resources: 

Questions or comments? Contact enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov